Sexual Abuse at Daycare
Working parents often trust the care of their young children to daycare facilities, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting 1 in 3 children under 5 are regularly cared for by a non-relative. Parents trust that these workers will be properly vetted, trained, equipped and supervised in providing that care. Employees and facilities don’t always meet these standards, and in some cases, parents are devastated to learn their child has been the victim of sexual abuse at daycare.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals there are more than 2,200 repots annually of child abuse by daycare providers. Unfortunately, the true scale of child sexual abuse is tough to determine because it’s so often unreported, as victims are often fearful of or manipulated by the abuser.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale daycare sexual abuse attorneys know that while criminal prosecution is generally the top priority initially in daycare abuse cases, families should not overlook additional recourse through the civil justice system.
- Compensation for medical care, counseling, lost wages and more. Sexual abuse of a young child is extremely traumatic, physically and emotionally. Victims often have lasting scars and need extensive counseling and other intervention to heal. There are costs involved to that, costs that may not be covered by your health insurance provider. Parents also often lose wages when they take time away from work to meet their child’s needs. Some even quit their jobs because they will never again be able to trust someone with their child’s care.
- Lower proof burden. Although the individual abuser may be convicted criminally, the proof burden in those cases is high. Guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas the proof burden in civil cases is lower, with a standard of a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means even if prosecutors falter with the criminal case, you can still seek justice in the civil courts.
- Accountability for the daycare. Generally the only person who is criminally prosecuted in daycare sexual abuse cases is the actual perpetrator. However, this does not mean the daycare administrators should be off the hook. Government regulators may impose fines or revoke licensure if there is evidence the facility failed to meet certain professional standards or didn’t report suspected abuse, but civil litigation is where you are able to hold the center accountable for failures that resulted in your child’s suffering. These are things like negligent hiring (not properly checking employees’ background), negligent supervision (not properly supervising employees entrusted with the care of young children), negligent retention (keeping an employee on staff even after learning of a possible threat to children) and more.
A conviction for a violation of F.S. 794.011 , sexual battery of a person under 12 by a person over 18 is a first-degree felony. These cases may be hard (though not impossible) to prove. It’s important you have a civil attorney who can help guide you through the process.Filing a Civil Lawsuit after a Criminal Offense
Usually when we sue someone for negligence (i.e., failing to keep a property safe, not warning of a hazard in a product or driving recklessly), we are ultimately pursuing a claim for damages against the negligent party’s insurer. This can be anything from auto insurance, to liability insurance to homeowners’ insurance to umbrella insurance. However, almost all insurers have exclusions pertaining to intentional acts or crimes. You still have a cause of action against the perpetrator, but one can usually only collect from that individual’s personal assets (bank account, home, vehicle, etc.).
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to pursue, but it is worth considering.
It’s also one of the reasons why we often also pursue a claim against the facility and other third-parties as well. Daycare liability insurers often will pay these claims, even though the underlying cause involves an intentional criminal act, because usually the daycare itself is being accused of some form of negligence (i.e., negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent retention, etc.).
Daycares can also be held liable under a legal theory known as vicarious liability. In Florida, an employer can be vicariously liable for the negligent/ tortious act an employee commits within the scope of employment or during the course of employment and to further the interests of the employer.
If you have questions about how to pursue legal action against your child’s day care for abuse, we can help.
Contact The Ansara Law Firm for more information about pursuing a civil claim for damages after sexual assault, abuse or molestation. Call us at (954) 761-3641 for a free case review.